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Air Sensors Citizen Science Toolbox

2014 August 6

airsensorid

By Amanda Kaufman

There is a growing interest by citizens to learn more about what’s going on in their community: What’s in the air I breathe? What does it mean for my health and the health of my family? How can I learn more about these things and even be involved in the process? Is there a way for me to measure, learn, and share information about my local air quality?

Researchers at EPA have developed the virtual Air Sensors Citizen Science Toolbox to help citizens answer these types of questions and more. With the recent release of the Toolbox web page, citizens can now visit http://go.usa.gov/NnR4 and find many different resources at this one simple location. As a citizen scientist myself, I am very excited to learn that there are funding opportunities for individuals and communities to conduct their own air monitoring research projects. The Funding Sources for Citizen Science Database is just one of the many resources on the Toolbox webpage.

One of the resources available as part of the Toolbox is the Air Sensors Guidebook, which explores low-cost and portable air sensor technologies, provides general guidelines on what to look for in obtaining a sensor, and examines important data quality features.

Compact air sensor that could be used by citizen scientists to monitor local air quality.

Compact air sensor that could be used by citizen scientists to monitor local air quality.

To understand the current state of the science, the Toolbox webpage also includes the Sensor Evaluation Report, which summarizes performance trials of low-cost air quality sensors that measure ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Future reports to be posted on the webpage will summarize findings on particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compound (VOC) sensor performance evaluations.

As they are developed, more tools will be posted on the webpage, including easy-to-understand operating procedures for select low-cost sensors; basic ideas for data analysis, interpretation, and communication; and other helpful information.

I believe the Toolbox is a great resource for citizens to learn more about air sensor technology at a practical level. It will provide guidance and instructions to citizens to allow them to effectively collect, analyze, interpret, and communicate air quality data. The ultimate goal is to give citizens like you and me the power to collect data about the air we breathe.

About the author:  Amanda Kaufman is an Environmental Health Fellow from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). She is hosted by EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy national research program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Dan Fedak permalink
    August 6, 2014

    Where can I get the Citizen Science monitor ? My mom lives in the city ….. would like to test her air.

    • Dan Fedak permalink
      August 6, 2014

      I am A Vocational Teacher. One of the courses I instruct is “The Green Environment” …….. basically LEED version 3…….. out of date yes ! But funding can’t buy version 4………. The Citizen Science Monitor sounds like a good idea but it’s portability would impact precise locations of VOC’s. If Sick Building Syndrome was suspected, I could see occupants with these monitors.

    • Amanda Kaufman permalink
      August 7, 2014

      Thank you for your question. There are a variety of air sensor technologies available for citizen scientists interested in monitoring local air quality. EPA encourages new technology development, but does not endorse any products. For more information on conducting an air monitoring citizen science project in your community, the Air Sensor Guidebook is a useful resource for understanding air pollution, choosing appropriate sensors, and developing a study design. Pages 23 and 24 of the Air Sensor Guidebook list several available air pollution sensors and their performance characteristics.

  2. Amanda Kaufman permalink
    August 7, 2014

    There are many applications where air sensors can be used to monitor local air quality. Section 5.1 of the Air Sensor Guide discusses application areas, including those for educational purposes. In addition, Section 4 discusses how to collect useful data and sensor placement.

  3. Lance Ledet permalink
    August 11, 2014

    Where can I obtain the sensor, I work in the algae pond business and need to know what is in the air and the CO2 amount in the air among other gasses.

  4. SamAtEPA permalink*
    August 11, 2014

    Thanks for the comment, Lance. I’m going to copy Amanda’s response to Dan as I believe it addresses your question as well.

    “There are a variety of air sensor technologies available for citizen scientists interested in monitoring local air quality. EPA encourages new technology development, but does not endorse any products. For more information on conducting an air monitoring citizen science project in your community, the Air Sensor Guidebook is a useful resource for understanding air pollution, choosing appropriate sensors, and developing a study design. Pages 23 and 24 of the Air Sensor Guidebook list several available air pollution sensors and their performance characteristics.”

    Here is the direct link to the Air Sensor Guidebook – http://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?dirEntryId=277996&simpleSearch=1&searchAll=air+sensor+guidebook
    If you just scroll down a bit and click “Air Sensor Guidebook” under the section titled “URLs/Downloads,” you can access the information Amanda mentioned in her response.

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